Forging Leadership from Schools to Society

The beginning of a leadership journey

Schools are one of the first avenues for young individuals to better understand themselves in terms of skills, personality, and aspirations, among other things. Through social interactions growing up, young people acquire knowledge and skills to develop themselves. This kind of experience has also shaped Daphne Marcelo in her path to development work and her leadership journey. Her time at school allowed her to discover the responsibilities of being a leader and how she can hone these skills.

Like her parents, whom she drew inspiration to become a leader, she was able to learn and acquire leadership roles by being active in school. During her 1st Grade, she was already exposed to a leadership position as the class president. Without any hesitations, she grabbed opportunities to lead, whether in class or in group activities. But ultimately, leadership is beyond the title vested to her. She believes that being in a position to lead others is an opportunity to harness everyone’s strengths to achieve a common objective that could not be achieved by just on her own.

Another source of her leadership journey was through reading books. In fact, she held the most number of borrowed books in her school’s library, totaling 11 library cards that remained unbroken since her high school graduation in 2009. It came to a point where she was only allowed by her mother to read fictional books every weekend – which she frequently failed to follow. Out of the many books she read, she found Jerry Spinelli’s Stargirl as an inspiration as a leader where the character was able to effect change by simply being herself despite the overwhelming non-acceptance by her peers and even adults.

Merits and challenges of being a leader.

Projects in schools allowed Daphne to exercise her leadership skills, particularly in directing two Sabayang Pagbigkas pieces during her 2nd and 4th year in high school where they also won on both occasions. Tasks like these require harnessing the strengths of individual members to successfully bring out the best in the group in achieving their common objectives. As the leader, she went through the entire process together with the members from the visioning process to understanding their strengths, all while the grueling daily practices that left them hoarse and with aching muscles. Despite the challenges in these experiences, she realized a lot of important things in being a leader such as earning the trust of her classmates.

Fast forward with her current NGO work in ImagineLaw, a public interest law organization advocating for evidence-based policy solutions in public health, she was able to take on her first managerial position. In her project last 2021, she encountered major challenges requiring her to make swift decisions that have immediate impacts on society. She recalled a huge setback in the implementation of their project due to the suspension of the enforcement of the law mandating child restraint systems use. In these situations, she dealt with a lot of pressures but these challenges, however, were seen as an opportunity to accelerate her growth as a leader.

Dealing with burnout and taking care of oneself.

Whenever burnout strikes, Daphne reminds herself of the critical responsibility in her work in public health policy. The social impact of her work pushes her to push forward and continue treading with her service to society. 

Throughout her career, she is able to develop several strategies to make sure that she continues to be in the best condition so that she can provide the greatest service in her work. She found that being organized and systematic enables her to relax her mind, which is the most valuable asset in her line of work. She ensures that her dedication to her work will not hinder her from taking care of herself by compartmentalizing her tasks to do other important things that make her happy. She consistently engages in mindful movement and spending time with her loved ones.

The journey in the LMNP Fellowship Program. 

As a manager of an NGO, the LMNP Fellowship program allowed her to be exposed to the different frameworks and tools that she can apply in processing her day-to-day activities. She recalled one of the salient points in the program where Mr. Bong Villamor, course facilitator, introduced the term “leadership sanctuary”. Through the program, she was able to realize that, “Processing the work that I get to do gives me a better sense of where I am, what I stand to gain and achieve, and what more there is that can be done.” This attunes to the heart of LMNP Program where each fellow is given an opportunity to engage with constant reflection in their leadership journey.

A call to her fellow young leaders. 

Having a guide to a leadership journey enables Atty. Daphne constantly engages in self-reflection towards her journey. A quote by Frederick Buechner serves as her compass, where he said, “The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.” 

Leadership journeys begin with an understanding of yourself, what skills you bring to the table so you know what else needs work, and what brings you joy.


Growing up, Atty. Daphne seized opportunities to continuously learn and develop what it means to be a leader. In her leadership journey, opportunities and challenges along the way prepared her to be excellent in her field. She wants young leaders to look at these opportunities as avenues for growth. She reminds them, “If you feel unprepared for an opportunity, that’s the time that you should embrace the chance that you have been given. Growth occurs outside our comfort zone.”

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